Fulfilling dreams – helping to protect Australia’s sea turtles


Kim Turtle
Kimberly Finlayson catching turtles. Photo : Takahiro Shimada

Author: Laura Griffiths

Emergent is a five-part blog series that takes a fresh look at ARI’s early career researchers – a group of driven, passionate people with a shared sense of responsibility about our changing world. These emerging scholars are developing skills and applying them to real world issues.  Some are even taking opportunities to fulfil their life-long ambitions and dreams.

Today we focus on a Kimberly Finlayson, an accomplished wildlife toxicologist from Ontario, Canada who is fulfilling a life-long dream of working with sea turtles in Australia. Kim completed her PhD at ARI in 2018. She is currently working at ARI TOX on the Gold Coast, examining how chemical contaminants can affect wildlife.

What is your favourite aspect of your research?

I originally got into marine biology for the field work, which I absolutely love. I had little lab experience when I started my PhD in ecotoxicology but have actually found I enjoy it as much as being in the field. It’s always challenging but rewarding as well!

Kim Lab
Kim at work in the research lab at Smart Water, Griffith University. Photo: Steph Chaousis

Why does your work matter?

When it comes to contaminants, we actually know very little about their impacts on wildlife.  Additionally, there are so many contaminants in the environment, it is nearly impossible to identify them all. Understanding how wildlife might be effected by individual compounds or mixtures of compounds can provide important information for conservation and management plans, and may ultimately impact policy.

Where do you get your inspiration?

I actually find I get the most inspiration from other researchers, particularly the other women in my field. It’s not always easy to be a woman in science and being surrounded by passionate, driven and accomplished women is incredibly motivating.

What is your proudest achievement to date?

I moved to Australia 8 years ago hoping one day I would get to study sea turtles. I never actually thought that would happen! I’m proud of the hard work I put in to accomplish that dream. I feel lucky to be doing something that I absolutely love.

What are the main issues you see need addressing in your field?

Live animal testing is not practical or ethical on large, long-lived marine megafauna, so we need to find alternative methods.

My lab has established cell cultures for a number of these species so we can do cell-based experiments that do not involve killing animals.

However, we still need to validate cell-based methods with exposure experiments on live animals. Toxicokinetic modelling can help link the two methods, but these models are still being developed for many species.

Learn more:

  • Find research and study opportunities at ARI
  • See Kim’s research publications here

Learn about the Recovery Plan for Sea Turtles in Australia

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